Longtime friendships formed at Camp Jawonio – JoAnn Chirico and Sandy Sewell

JoAnn Chirico and Sandy Sewell met many years ago, in the early 1950’s at Camp Jawonio.  They both made lifelong friends and had experiences that stayed with them their whole life.  JoAnn was one of the youngest of the children attending Camp Jawonio in those early years.

At the time they first met, Sandy was 12 and JoAnn was 6.  Across the decades, JoAnn and Sandy have remained friends to this day!  They frequently meet for social visits and recently shared their memories of Camp Jawonio with us.


JoAnn shared, “One of my fondest memories of going to camp was of swimming in the pool.  At first, I was a little unsure but my father had taken me to pools to show me how to swim so I remembered what to do.  I remember Mrs. Muller, Anita, who had a beautiful swimming stroke—she looked like a swimmer in one of those professional swimming shows with Ester Williams.  She would swim while we ate lunch.  Then after lunch it was our turn to swim. I also remember that there were frogs who sometimes came into the pool and swam, that was so fun.”

Both JoAnn and Sandy recalled that the transportation at the time was with a local taxi company that would pick up the children. Also, everyone could bring in something for “show and tell” once a week.  JoAnn remembered one friend bringing a kitten into the car for “show and tell” and it crawled all over everyone in the backseat.  Sandy recalled how one day during the summer, one of the boys brought his trombone which took up the whole back seat!

JoAnn and Sandy were also able to share memories about the amazing accomplishments that the kids made at Camp Jawonio.  They both talked about Mr. Nelson, who was a Speech Therapist at the camp:  “Mr. Nelson worked with one of the boys who could not speak.  He had a lot of trouble interacting with the other children and staff and letting them know what he wanted.  Mr. Nelson taught him Morse Code so he could communicate,” said JoAnn.  “Yes, it was remarkable to watch him in this process. He was able to participate more in all the activities after that.  He blossomed,” said Sandy.

Seeing great things like this inspired JoAnn to pursue her education in the field of Speech and Language Therapy.  She earned her undergraduate degree from NY State University at Buffalo then went on to get her Masters in Speech Therapy from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

Sandy also pursued her education and eventually became a teacher at Rockland Community College, teaching Occupational Therapy students.  Sandy works as an advocate for people with disabilities and leads the Rockland Social Network that provides social and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities.

Thank you to JoAnn and Sandy for sharing your stories with us, it was wonderful being able to catch up and hear about your longtime friendship, accomplishments, and fond memories of Camp Jawonio!

If you have story to share about your time as a student or staff member at Camp Jawonio or of our Summer Education Program, please join our Camp Jawonio Connections page on Facebook by clicking here!